Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 Review: We've Already Lost A Seat

The news that New Jersey is likely to lose a House seat after the 2010 Census has already sent some in the political class talking about what will happen and who will go. From a political standpoint it's rather interesting because, as noted by Wally Edge, it represents the first time since 1972 two incumbent Congressmen could be facing off in either a primary or a general election.

However, as noted by the title, we as a state only really have 12 Congressmen anyway. All one has to do is look at the votes where the entire delegation, Republican and Democratic, voted as a block in 2007 to notice the 12 to Representative Scott Garrett nature of the representation we here in the Fifth are stuck with. These are posts about 21 votes where Garrett was the lone Representative from NJ to vote the way he did:
  1. The Energy Bill - Increasing MPG and investment in alternative forms of energy.
  2. $250,000 for Greenwood Lake - This was the vote Garrett flipped at the behest of The Club for Growth, upholding the President's veto, after voting for the bill twice.
  3. Pledge to President Bush - This isn't really a vote, but Garrett was the only Republican from New Jersey to sign our vote over to the President on vetoed bills. I also wrote about it here.
  4. Train Safety - Garrett was one of 38 to vote against making freight train crossings safer.
  5. Jews & Muslims: Garrett was the only Rep from NJ to vote against funding a Jewish Museum and "stay off" the vote commending Ramadan. The latter was initially said to be a mater of principle, which was shown to be a lie when he voted for the Christmas resolution.
  6. Dog Fighting - This actually happened in December '06, but Garrett was one of 39 Representatives who felt the punishment given to the likes of Michael Vick was strong enough. The bill also outlawed cockfighting blades, used to make those fights more gruesome.
  7. Improving Head Start - Garrett was one of 35 to vote against this.
  8. Popcorn Lung Prevention Act - Odd sounding, but the chemical flavor in microwave popcorn has been linked to an irreversible fatal lung disease.
  9. Rural Housing - These were two votes to assist families living in rural areas to move off Section 8 housing, and expand opportunities of home ownership. Garrett was one of 49 to oppose this.
  10. First time homeowners in the Fifth - This bill reformed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allowed conforming loans to be made in our District by raising the ceiling on loan limits.
  11. Small Business Owners - These were two votes where Garrett stood alone against those living the American Dream: Ten years of tax cuts for owners and better loan programs from the SBA.
  12. Scholarships and Grants - These bills increased the funding for math and science scholarships and grants for scientists. The combined margin of passage was 786-44.
  13. Hurricane Katrina Victims - Funds to help people rebuild their homes.
  14. Water Quality Investment Act - A bill to prevent flooding like that which slammed New Milford earlier this year.
  15. College Student Loan Relief - A bill lowering the interest rate paid on college student loans by eliminating the corporate profit guarantee for those servicing the loans.
  16. Community Policing - Garrett was one of 39 to vote against restoring funding he had voted to strip over the previous years.
  17. Improved Citizen Access to Information - This was a mega post about accountability and mentioned were Garrett's votes against Presidential accountability and improving the Freedom of Information Act.

This is not an exhaustive list, as many amendments Garrett votes for are not supported by more than a handful of Representatives in the House. That was kind of covered in this piece. Heading into next year, it should be interesting to see what other 12 to Garrett votes we're presented with.

Barring some irresistible news to write about, this is likely the last post on Blog the Fifth for 2007. I want to thank all the readers, folks who link here, and those who e-mail me privately for providing the motivation to keep this thing going.

Those in government must be held accountable for their actions in order for us to have a healthy Republic. I'm glad to do my very small part, and look forward to continuing (perhaps in a larger role) in 2008.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year, be safe, and may those resolutions last at least a month ;-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garrett: Top 10 Mass Mailer

People often have asked me how Representative Scott Garrett is so good at getting his message out when he raises so little money to campaign. The AP has provided us with the answer: taxpayer dollars.

While ranking toward the bottom in a number of categories of influence and effectiveness, Garrett is in the top 10 in sending out mass mailings. In the election year of 2006, Garrett sent out 741,971 pieces of mass mail at a cost of $160,795.

The 21 cents per piece places Garrett second only to one other Representative in cost per piece. Actually, the 21 cents to produce his 2 page full color card stock spin pieces (here, here), is a heck of a lot less than a full color campaign piece would cost to print locally.

Add to that the savings from not having to pay postage, and Garrett is definitely using the system to his full benefit. This is one of the benefits of incumbency, no doubt.

Being able to find little nuggets like this is probably why Garrett voted against the House version of improving the Freedom of Information Act. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to tell that not only is Garrett sending out misleading information, but he's spending more than almost everybody to do it.

If Garrett wants to send out spin pieces he should only do that on his campaign's dime, not the taxpayer's.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Aronsohn's Return?

In an interesting Op-Ed published today, Paul Aronsohn repeated almost his entire campaign pitch in the opening paragraphs. One might be led to speculate he may be contemplating a return. If I hear anything, that's not off the record, I'll post it here.

Garrett's Out of District Spending Spree

With President Bush's signing of the massive Omnibus spending bill today, about $10 billion worth of earmarks are now about to be handed out. Of that amount, our Representative Scott Garrett is responsible for $8.77 million (h/t Herb Jackson).

The extremely small amount of earmarks could lead one to believe that Garrett is sticking to his guns about only getting earmarks for the District and opposing everything else. However, as with most things Garrett, appearances are deceiving.

In fact, 70% of Garrett's earmarks appear to be out of District in nature. From military research at undisclosed locations ($6 million) to an earmark for Englewood Hospital, Garrett spread the majority of what little wealth he went after outside of the District.

What's also interesting is Garrett's geographic spread of funding within the District. Here's how the in-District funding broke down:
  1. Sussex: 44%
  2. Warren: 31%
  3. Bergen: 22%
  4. Passaic: 3%

I guess, if Garrett really were trying to represent the District as a whole he would try for a little more population parity. Also, Warren County's numbers are a little distorted by one $750,000 earmark (Garrett's largest non-military) to Centenary College. While I have little doubt of the quality of Centenary or the program there, this points to Garrett's failings as an overall Representative.

Why is it Rep. Steve Rothman had to secure money for Bergen Community College (which is in our District; and serves the population of 60% of our District)? Why didn't Garrett think Warren County Community College, Sussex County Community College or Ramapo College deserved funds?

While sending dollars to the hospital of your birth is usually reserved for an endowment fund out of your personal checkbook, Garrett decided to send $150,000 taxpayer dollars to Englewood. What about hospitals like Valley in Ridgewood, Bergen Regional, Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg or Hackettstown Memorial?

If Garrett, by his own "principles" isn't going to go after earmarked funds, we need to take a hard look at how he goes after the funds he does. It's one thing to say you're against earmarks, it's another thing to say by your funding choices that you're against your own constituents. It's a matter of putting taxpayer dollars where Garrett sees fit, and overwhelmingly that's not in our District.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Borrowers Win

The AMT bill without any offsets to prevent further borrowing was passed by a whopping majority. This is a good thing for the taxpayers next year, but a bad thing down the line. It also does nothing to change the fact 120,000 families in our District already pay the AMT. Representative Scott Garrett voted for the patch, and the continuation of our District's disproportionate share of the Federal tax burden.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Garrett and the AMT Standoff

In the four years Representative Scott Garrett served in the Republican majority he never got a single bill he wrote enacted into law. Of particular disappointment to the people I spoke with last year was the AMT and Garrett's inability to prevent people in our District from being forced to pay it.

Right now, 120,000 people from our District pay the AMT. Garrett's solution is to eliminate it and borrow the money so people's children and grandchildren get to pay compound interest on the debt. Sadly, when the Republicans went from the debt reduction PAYGO party to the tax cut and borrow party, Garrett and those who agreed with him created an awful bind. The second round of Bush Tax cuts, which Garrett co-sponsored, couldn't have been passed without eliminating PAYGO, expanding the AMT, and borrowing TRILLIONS.

The cut and borrow philosophy has caused the deficit to explode a staggering 60% in the last seven years, to over $9 trillion, causing our economic policy to be dictated by the likes of China. When I was campaigning last year, someone reiterated Cheney's "deficits don't matter" line when I was talking about the need to re-institute PAYGO and I reminded them of this from the 14th Amendment of the Constitution:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

The AMT debate has come down to a standoff between the borrowers and the true fiscal conservatives in both parties in both chambers of Congress, and our District is caught in the crossfire. When 20% of the District is impacted by something, one would hope Garrett would be the one to come through with the compromise that gets the job done.

Unfortunately, as usual, Garrett has chosen partisan rhetoric over substantive work. Garrett hasn't offered a deficit neutral solution of his own, he's voted against the Democrat's deficit neutral proposal, and now has come out and slammed the Democrats for inaction on the AMT even though it's the borrow happy Republicans in the Senate getting in the way of the patch getting passed.

This hasn't been funny or cute for a long time.

In his closing remarks about the omnibus spending bill passed last night, which neither Democrats nor Republicans were 100% happy with, Representative David Obey made the following statement:
The difference is that this year we are recognizing that in an adult world, win, lose, or draw, we have an obligation to reach some final decisions. We have an obligation to compromise and move on. And that's what we are trying to do with this legislation. It is a responsible thing to do.

Nearly 20% of the population of our District are about to pay the price for Garrett's entrenched ineptitude. Garrett has an obligation to the 120,000 taxpayers in this District, and to future generations, to work toward a compromise. A compromise involves both sides giving up something.

If Garrett doesn't like 50,000 hedge fund managers paying the same tax rate as everybody else, he has an obligation to propose something else. Not some borrow more scheme endorsed by the Club for Growth and their 3 donors that live in our District; but a solution that can get passed and doesn't continue to cripple the American Dream for future generations.

If Garrett continues to substitute rhetoric for action, this being a Republican district, then the obligation Garrett abdicates falls on the shoulders of Republican primary voters. I cannot believe the Republicans I worked for years ago are pleased with Garrett's ineptitude and deficit exploding stances. There has to be a point where Garrett's reckless stances are taken to task.

Garrett vs. Future Energy Independence

This was not a surprise.

In another 12 to Garrett vote, Representative Scott Garrett voted against the Energy Bill yet again. This bill was yet another bi-partisan effort Garrett voted against, picking up 63 Republicans from the first vote, as well as President Bush's promise to sign.

On energy matters, Garrett's short on foresight and long on bad stances. Garrett has previously voted against price gouging protection for consumers twice. Garrett also holds the distinction of being the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against investment in alternative energy, while also being the only one to support oil drilling off the Jersey Shore.

I had a chance to listen to some of the debate, and it doesn't seem Garrett got up to explain why he was opposed. If he submitted anything to the Clerk I'll post it here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thoughts for the Weekend

What can you get with 200 qualified partisan signatures?

A spot on the ballot in a primary contest for the US House.

Who can you ask to support your candidacy (h/t Blue Jersey)?

Registered partisans and unaffiliated voters.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hoyer Sick of Garrett's SCHIP

Well, Representative Steny Hoyer seems to have had enough of Representative Scott Garrett's constant misrepresentation regarding the SCHIP bill the President vetoed yet again. After another of Garrett's misinformation efforts, Hoyer took to the floor and took Garrett to task:
I was not going to participate in this debate, but the gentleman from New Jersey doesn't fully understand what we've been about for the last 2 months. He talked about the rank and file. Mr. Dingell, the senior Member of this House, myself, Senator Baucus, Senator Hatch, Senator Grassley, Members of the rank and file on your side of the aisle who had not voted for this bill and didn't vote to override the veto. Mr. Barton was in some of those meetings. Mr. Deal was in some of those meetings. We met for almost 100 hours with rank-and-file Members on your side because we felt so strongly we wanted to address some of the issues of concern.

It's important at this point to point out that Hoyer didn't say, "you were there". How serious can Garrett really be about working with the other side if he won't go to a meeting. A 100 hours of meetings and Garrett can't bother spending 15 minutes for a program providing roughly $1.5 million in aid in our District every year? Hoyer continues:

We haven't gotten there yet, but I want to tell the gentleman, first of all, he says this bill is not for indigent children. Medicaid is for indigent children. This is for children of hardworking Americans who are not making enough because either their employer doesn't provide insurance or they can't afford the insurance to cover their children. We tried very, very hard. I defy you, and you haven't been here that long, I understand that, but I defy you to find another instance where that many hours has been put in by such senior Members, including two of the most senior Republicans in the United States Senate who voted for this bill, as did 18 of their colleagues in the United States Senate, and 44 of your colleagues here voted for this bill, and 45 for the previous bill. This is a very significant bipartisan bill.

That's a "sit down rookie" statement.

And this bill responded to some of the concerns raised by the President. You continue to talk about adults. There are parents on here at the States' choice, as you know. Your State's choice, my State's choice. However, we precluded, as you know, in this bill nonparents, and rather than a 2-year phaseout, we did a 1-year phaseout. We responded to the President's concern about $83,000. We capped it at 300 percent. We responded to the question of trying to identify and to make sure that we add people who are authorized to be in this country.

I've dealt with Garrett's misrepresentations of what the SCHIP bill contains, it's tough to pick a best effort, but this one may have helped prevent his Op-Ed from being published.
So I think the gentleman's comments about the Democratic Party, or Democrat, as he likes to refer to us, is totally inaccurate, I will tell my friend. We've worked very hard. Why have we worked very hard? Because we think that 4 million children who the President of the United States in 2004 got on the Republican National Convention floor seeking the votes of all of his fellow citizens to be re-elected as President of the United States, said, I want to add millions of children currently eligible to this program who are not yet served. I tell my friend that's what this bill does. That's why we are so surprised and disappointed that the President rejected this bill and vetoed it and said, as the Speaker said, I forbid this bill going into effect and adding those 4 million children.
I'm glad somebody was finally able to stand up and say to Garrett, directly, while he was on the floor, that he's been misrepresenting the SCHIP bill from the beginning. I hope there is more of this to come, and I hope some of the Republicans backing this bill will stand up and tell Garrett he's full of it as well.

PSAs from Garrett Gazzette

I normally don't post the entire Garrett Gazzett, but this week's has two important notices for residents of the Fifth.

The IRS has just announced that some disabled veterans may be eligible for tax refunds for benefits received through the Department of Veterans Affairs' Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program.

A U.S. Tax Court decision issued earlier this year held that CWT payments are tax-free veterans benefits. This reversed a 1965 ruling that had classified the payments as taxable income. Disabled veterans who paid tax on these benefits in tax years 2004, 2005, or 2006 can claim a refund by filing an amended return (IRS Form 1040X). And, as the benefits will not be taxable for tax years 2007 and beyond, the Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer distribute a Form 1099 toCWT beneficiaries.

More than 19,000 veterans received CWT benefits in Fiscal Year 2007. This program provides assistance to veterans unable to work and supportthemselves, helping them learn new job skills and secure gainfulemployment. The Department of Veterans Affairs contracts with bothprivate industry and public sector for work by veterans through this program.

If you think that you may be eligible for a refund, IRS forms can be accessed at:



The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced that federal economic injury disaster loans are available for small businesses in Warren County as a result of hail and high winds thatoccurred on August 17, 2007. The disaster declaration by the U.S.Secretary of Agriculture extends to Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, and Somerset Counties as well as Warren.

Both farm-related and non-farm-related small businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster are eligible to apply. Farmers and ranchers are not eligible to apply to the SBA. Under this disaster declaration, the SBA cannot provide loans to agricultural producers.

Eligible applicants may qualify for up to $1.5 million in loans with a 4 percent interest rate and terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size and type of business and its financial resources and sets loan amounts and terms based on the applicant's financial condition.

If you think you may be eligible for this disaster relief, you can call the SBA's Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955, Monday throughFriday from 8:00am to 9:00 pm. Applications must be returned to the SBA no later than July 7, 2008. You can download a loan application at:

Completed applications should be mailed to:
U.S. Small Business AdministrationProcessing and Disbursement Center
14925 Kingsport Road
Fort Worth, TX 76155

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Garrett: Holiday Hypocrisy

As I noted earlier today, HR 847 acknowledged the start of Christmas. Unlike when Representative Scott Garrett was given the opportunity to acknowledge the start of Ramadan and voted present; on the Christmas vote Garrett voted yes.

Now I didn't have a problem with either resolution. However, Garrett had a problem with the Ramadan resolution because, as he said, "Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith."

Yet today, when presented with the exact same type of resolution, Garrett decided it was okay to pick and commend one faith. The reason I raise this is because it is complete hypocrisy, and shows how flimsy Garrett's principles are. This isn't about faith, this is about Garrett claiming to be principled and proving how devoid of principle he really is.

Garrett vs. Christmas?

Here's a vote to watch today: HR 847 - Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. The resolution is almost identical to that of one passed in October recognizing Ramadan's importance to Islam. Our Representative Scott Garrett was one of 42 Representatives to vote present the Ramadan resolution.

Here's how Garrett justified the vote at the time:
Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey says he too was "troubled" by the Ramadan resolution. "There were a number of members who, as we call it down here, 'stayed off' that vote and did not support it because I think that they looked at it as something that Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith."
So, was it really a principled stand? If it was, we can expect Garrett to also vote present on the Christmas resolution. While I pointed out earlier, Garrett's support for Diwali could be explained away by the fact a number of faiths participate in the festival. However, the Christmas resolution is about one faith being picked out and commended.

So how principled is Garrett? The answer later...

Not As Broke As They Thought

Well, Bergen County Republicans have something to be happy about today. The Record is reporting that they are only $38,000 in debt. This is welcome news to those of us hoping they get back on their feet in order to fight Papa Joe and the BCDO.

To avoid problems for them in the future, I picked up on something in the article Chairman Rob Ortiz said that could cause problems for them down the line:
The party failed to pay federal and state income taxes on its executive director's salary in 2003. It owes a combined $6,040 to the IRS and to the state of New Jersey. Ortiz said that the future director, a full-time position, would be paid as an independent contractor and not a salaried employee subject to the payroll tax. The post was vacant as of last week.

Here is the IRS's way of explaining the Independent Contractor vs. Employee

Who is an Independent Contractor?

A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.


Who is an Employee?

A general rule is that anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done.

I'm sure with all the lawyers they've got, the BCRO can figure out a way to structure the contract for some exceptions. However, does an organization trying to come back from a near death experience, where reestablishing credibility is key, really want to also be seen trying to skirt tax laws?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blog the Fifth Is Back

Well, the last week showed why I should get some other people writing on this little blog of mine. Life can get in the way of blogging at times. Here's what went on:

In Washington:

Representative Scott Garrett voted against making our nation more energy independent and was one of only 55 Representatives to vote against providing funds to clean up the water supply in the North Bay. This bill will help prevent all those little e coli breakouts we've been having, so I'm not sure what Garrett was voting against.

On a positive note, Garrett did vote with nearly all of Congress to fight child porn and child abduction, as well as make funds available to reservists and veterans to start businesses and for small businesses who hire reservists and veterans.

Garrett has largely panned the President's sub-prime interest rate freeze, but we have to remember he feels the housing market is in good shape. On Bloomberg television he seemed almost pleased with the way the housing market is going. Garrett does say that when there is fraud, the government should step in. However, Garrett places all of the blame on the mortgage holder as opposed to the product they were told they could take.

I may have only done it for eight weeks, but I'd be happy to discuss how a largely sub-prime mortgage broker house works with Garrett, or any of his staffers. The interest was on developing a spread of loans, from good to bad, to sell investors. I ended up quiting because it didn't seem right to try and sell people loans they couldn't afford. I never did close a loan because I'd tell people they didn't need us.

On the campaign trail:

Camille Abate got some press for a breakfast she had with several union leaders. There's some confusion in the press as to whether she was or was not endorsed by the group. This is understandable, as her press release about the event is similar in verbiage to that of Aronsohn's back in February announcing Corzine's "endorsement."

Herb Jackson is reporting that Rabbi Dennis Shulman is going to be down in DC talking with various fundraisers, including the DCCC.

In the 39th:

Assemblyman John Rooney is pondering retirement. Eric Sedler of Red Jersey has "started" his campaign to succeed Rooney. speculates that Bob Schroeder, Lisa Randall, Old Tappan Mayor Victor Polce, Norwood Mayor James Barsa and Ramsey Mayor Chris Botta as possible Republican candidates.

Why doesn't my name ever make these lists?

Just for fun:

A big congratulations to Oradell's Jim McGovern on his return to the PGA. He's worked really hard for this, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.